Review: NetSuite 8.6

 
 
By John Taschek  |  Posted 2003-05-09
 
 
 

Review: NetSuite 8.6


Compared with other midmarket hosted CRM solutions, NetLedgers application is in a class by itself—a position that opens it up to unrelenting attacks by its competitors.

NetLedger has evolved its eponymously named application from an accounting and math package to part of a fully functional CRM package: NetSuite, released last December.

eWEEK Labs tested NetSuite 8.6, which is actually a combination of three NetLedger services: NetCRM, Oracle Small Business Suite and the companys namesake accounting package.

In tests, NetSuite was very easy to use, although it has unpolished areas. These include import and export of data, a two- or three-step process in some cases, and reports, which force users to depart from the reports area to set date periods rather than handling the customization directly in the reporting modules. We also ran into several idiosyncrasies in the system, including NetSuites habit of pigeonholing data lists in areas that make only marginal sense.

To most users, this wont matter—theyll be working instead through NetLedgers dashboard area, a fully customizable portal into the entire NetSuite stack. NetLedger can house the entire front-office data, so the dashboard actually works (see screen). None of the other systems we tested has the same kind of tight module integration.

Its this tight integration that makes NetSuite so appealing for small businesses. NetSuite includes ties to Yahoo Inc.s Yahoo Shopping and some small-business payment brokers, as well as to catalog merchants. NetSuite is the only system that can publish a Web site based on a companys inventory, create lead management programs, accept payment through a payment broker, and credit and debit accounts automatically. NetSuite can also link directly to third-party catalog management packages by scripting URLs into the NetSuite system via the Web software development kit.

This integration is incredible to the mom and pop store, but it also gives NetLedger the smell of the small business. Dont be fooled, however: NetLedger can be used by departments within extremely large companies, although NetLedger focuses on extremely small companies. Larger companies can turn off the features targeted at the SOHO and small/medium business space.

The issue, then, becomes how NetSuite can be integrated with legacy and preinstalled applications. In this regard, NetSuite has some features that make it an extremely accessible front-office suite, such as the ability for IT administrators to get database table access, which is useful to connect into reporting systems, among other things.

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However, NetLedger has a quirky integration strategy that may or may not work well for some organizations.

NetLedgers strategy hooks on SMBXML (small to medium business XML), itself a little-used standard proposal initially published by NetLedger for integrating accounting systems. SMBXML is easy enough to figure out, but NetLedger normalized the format to make it appealing to a variety of businesses. The problem is that SMBXML now includes fields that dont exactly match names in the NetLedger system. Again, not a big problem, but its not as easy as it could be.

There are benefits to using SMBXML, including the ability to add single-sign-on capabilities between partners over a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection.

Because NetSuite already has an accounting system built in, the fields are already created—its only a matter of using the API to populate them. Unfortunately, it is difficult to create real-time integration with NetSuite. The capability exists, but comes at an additional cost because NetSuite must run a separate database instance of a customers system on the hosted site. Most customers will be able to get by with pushing and pulling XML data in and out of the system.

Executive Summary

Usability Excellent
Capability Good
Performance Fair
Interoperability Good
Manageability Excellent
Scalability Good
Security Good

NetSuite 8.6 from Net-Ledger (www.netledger.com) is an all-inclusive business application suite that includes CRM, accounting, product and inventory, and storefront creation capabilities. The CRM modules functionality is not as fleshed out as that of the other systems we tested, but its tight integration with the rest of the suite more than makes up for what is missing.

(+) Obviates the need for some integration work; fast performance; easy set up; account profiles display only relevant data; low cost.

(-) Some features suitable mostly for very small businesses; performance in Keynote availability test showed some glitches.

Price $4,800 per year for three users; $50 per user thereafter.

CRM Systems Go Head to Head:

Labs Director John Taschek can be reached at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.

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